Part A) Assume that you are in a small group of people that you have just gotten to know and like. There are only three or four of you sitting around, relaxed. Maybe it is late at night. Because you are getting to know one another, you have been taking turns telling about the most frightening or impressive experiences in your life-a time when you encountered danger of death or injury, fear of pain or disgrace, threat of violence or accident, or something of equal importance, which you will never forget.
Set this down on paper exactly as you would tell it to the group.
I chose to tell the story of the time when Hubby almost burnt down our house. Here is part A:
Last spring we had gone to a party at a co-workers house. We ate, we drank, we made merry. Then we left. When we were a few minutes from home, my cell rang. I answered, “Hello?” A deep voice replied,
“Hello mam, this is the Chatham-Kent Fire Department calling.” I was immediately suspicious. Why would the fire department be calling me? Certain that someone was pulling a fast one I said,
“Uh-huh, yeah and I’m the first transvestite Pope. Did Cindy put you up to this?”
“No mam. This really is the Fire Department. And I really am standing outside your door with a very large axe. Are you in the area, or should I break your door down?”
“Um, I’m just around the corner. I’ll be there in 30 seconds. Please do NOT break down my door.”
I couldn’t believe it. Why was the fire department at MY house? I probably would have been humiliated at this point without the large amount of alcohol in my blood stream.
We turned the corner and there they were, along with all my “concerned” neighbors. I walked up to the man with the very large axe and said, “Hello, if you promise to put the big axe down, I’ll open the door for you”. I could hear the smoke detector screaming inside. “Can anyone tell me what happened?”
A neighbor, whose name I STILL do not know replied, “We heard the smoke detector going off and no one was home. We called the fire department just in case. Hope your cats are ok. Neighbor Dave had your cell number and the fireman said we could call before they broke your door down.”
“Err. Thanks,” I said. They probably just wanted the annoying sound to go away. The fire-fighters trudged all over my carpet with their muddy boots and discovered a candle burning, which had eventually set off the smoke detector right above it. No fires, but we were lucky. I remember shaking the fireman’s hand while simultaneously beating hubby into a pulp with the other, (he left the candle burning).
I still haven’t got the mud out of the carpet.
Assignment Part B: After you complete the first part of the assignment, imagine that in English class you are asked to write a paper about the same experience "in the third person". That is, you must tell the same story, but in this version the central figure should be yourself seen from the outside and called "he" or "she" rather than "I." This is a more formal and extraordinary ind of writing, further removed from and ordinary speech situation.
Here is part B:
She was smiling as they drove. They were laughing, and recalling funny bits of the evening, quoting outrageous one-liners and feeling merry. Unexpectedly, her cell phone rang. She picked it up and said, “Hello?”
A deep voice replied, “Hello mam, this is the Chatham-Kent Fire department calling.”
She was immediately suspicious. Why would the fire department be calling her? She was certain that the friends they left behind at the party decided to play a practical joke on her.
“Uh-huh,” she said in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “and I’m the first transvestite Pope. Did Cindy put you up to this?”
“No mam,” the man replied in a serious tone. Then, “This really IS the Fire Department. And I really AM standing outside your door with a very large axe. Are you in the area, or should I break your door down?”
Her heart race increased, and she began to panic. Was her house on fire? What was going on? Is this a joke gone too far?
“I’m just around the corner. I’ll be there in 30 seconds,” she said. “Please do NOT break down my door!”
She couldn’t believe it, but the sense that this was a plot by her friends seemed more and more unlikely. She filled her boyfriend in on the situation as they drove the few short blocks to the house. The fire department was parked on the street and her neighbors were standing outside. She would have liked to believe it was for her own best interests, but it seemed unlikely due to the fact that she disliked most of them and avoided all of them like the plague.
“Can anyone tell me what happened?” She said.
A nameless neighbor, who she believed lived next door, replied, “We heard the smoke detector going off and no one was home. We called the fire department just in case. Hope your cats are ok. Neighbor Dave had your cell number and the fireman said we could call you before they broke your door down.”
“Err. Thanks,” she said. As she turned the key in the door she could hear the blaring of the offending smoke detector. As she opened the door, the fireman pushed by her and into the house. Their boots made muddy tracks across her light-colored carpet.
A lit candle was found in the living room, which had set of f the detector above it. There were no fires, but she felt relief at their luck. She shook the fireman’s hand with one hand, and smacked her boyfriend with the other. It was he, after all, who had left the candle burning.
She ushered everyone out of the house and closed the door. Looking at the mud on the carpet she thought, ‘I’ll NEVER get that out.’
I had a hard time writing the second part. When you are writing and not "talking" more descriptive words are needed, and much more background. I had difficulty keeping it short enough to make a decent size post out of. Hopefully you are not all cursing me for the lengthy post. Let me know what you think of my experiment, or if I'm wasting your time. The last thing I want to do is put anyone to sleep. Perhaps you will want to play along with me.